If there's one thing Saturday Night Live is known for throughout its history, it's poking fun at the President of the United States. For decades SNL castmembers have done their best impressions of Presidents and candidates hoping to get the title, much to the delight or chagrin of its audience. There have also been times Presidents themselves have commented on the portrayal.
We know the folks who have portrayed Presidents and candidates over the years, but who did it the best? The following is our take on who did it best, while also factoring in the quality of their portrayal weighed against the overall entertainment factor of the sketches they did.
10. Dan Aykroyd - Richard Nixon
Considering how little work Saturday Night Live used to put into making its cast look like Presidents, it's truly remarkable how much went into making Dan Aykroyd resemble President Nixon. You also have to give Aykroyd some credit for nailing the voice, though as far as U.S. Presidents are concerned, Nixon isn't exactly a hard impression to tack down. Definitely one worthy of mention, if not one that people will typically think of in terms of memorable in the legacy of the show.
9. Alec Baldwin - Donald Trump
Obviously Alec Baldwin as Donal Trump is one of the most memorable portrayals in recent memory, likely because it has prompted the strongest response from a sitting President. President Donald Trump isn't a fan of Alec Baldwin's impression, nor a fan of Saturday Night Live for allowing it. In terms of critiquing his performance, Baldwin has a lot of the mannerisms of Trump and speech patterns down, but there are better voice impersonators out there. This is ultimately a portrayal that will be better remembered for its impact, and not so much its quality.
8. Dana Carvey - Jimmy Carter
Let it be said here and now: Dana Carvey is one of the greatest impersonators Saturday Night Live has ever had. It's never a question of whether or not he can do an impression, but a question of whether or not if it stands with the best he can do. Carvey's Jimmy Carter is solid enough to outrank some others on the list, but far from the best impression he has done of a President of the United States. Carvey's Carter is still better than Dan Aykroyd's but almost feels just a bit too cartoony compared to others.
7. Jay Pharoah - Barack Obama
I think it's fair to say that Saturday Night Live was never fully able to find a suitable lookalike impersonator for former President Barack Obama, which may be why they started outsourcing talent for the next President. Though he looked nothing like him, Jay Pharoah certainly nailed the cadence of an Obama speech and was able to throw in some comedy in a way that wasn't too over-the-top or out of line with the President's actual personality.
6. Amy Poehler - Hilary Clinton
Amy Poehler wasn't the first Saturday Night Live cast member to portray Hilary Clinton (that was Jan Hooks), but it's hard to argue she wasn't the greatest. Poehler was the face of Clinton for the greater part of the 2000s, and I think many would agree it was one of the things she was most known for on the program. Poehler's impression wasn't spot on, but she had the look and if you saw her enough on television, then you might almost begin to believe that she was Clinton.
5. Darrell Hammond - Al Gore
Perhaps overshadowed by the performance of the Saturday Night Live cast member portraying Al Gore's political opponent, we need to give some love to Darrell Hammond's Al Gore. Hammond had more of an elevated portrayal of Gore's personality, though one that again had to contend with Will Ferrell's over-the-top George W. Bush. Hammond's portrayal was helped by the fact he also resembled Gore in his look, honestly in a way that was almost uncanny.
4. Chevy Chase - Gerald Ford
If you're a casual Saturday Night Live fan, you may be confused by the placement here. If you're a diehard SNL fan, you understand completely. Chevy Chase did absolutely nothing to look, sound, or even entirely act like Gerald Ford. This impression is largely Chevy Chase playing a character that's largely like his other characters while adding the iconic falling sequences that plagued Ford's presidency. President Ford actually loved the portrayal, and regularly invited Chase to play golf with him in the years that followed. It's classic Chevy Chase, which is always going to rank high on an SNL list.
3. Will Ferrell - George W. Bush
Will Ferrell's George W. Bush may be the one that Saturday Night Live viewers recognize the most. Ferrell certainly did a highly elevated portrayal compared to others on this list. Ferrell played the role well, and I think it's no coincidence that his career really took off in a big way towards the end of his tenure on SNL in 2002. Ferrell would continue to reprise the role several times after leaving the show and even starred as the former President in a Broadway play called You're Welcome America.
2. Phil Hartman - Bill Clinton
Phil Hartman's sketches on Saturday Night Live were always a joy, so it's no surprise that his portrayal of Bill Clinton is great as well. Hartman certainly leaned into the scandalous side of the President with sketches that either pointed toward gluttony or lust over other women. He didn't quite have the voice down as much as others who would do the role, but it was such a laugh to watch him in action that it's hard to care.
1. Dana Carvey - George H.W. Bush
As if there was ever any doubt! How could anybody but Dana Carvey with his portrayal of George H.W. Bush win the top spot on this list? As far as Saturday Night Live Presidential parodies go, this is the cream of the crop. Dana Carvey had the look, the voice, the mannerisms, the whole shebang. Even if you weren't around to know how George Bush Sr. was on television, Carvey's sketches are just an absolute treat to watch.
Don't like the placement on this list, or think someone got snubbed? List your favorites in the comments below, and continue to stick with CinemaBlend for all the latest news happening in television and movies.
Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.
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